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Reconsidering Genocidal Intent in the Interest of Prevention

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Early establishment of evidence for genocidal intent would allow responses in the context of R2P, targeted specifically at the prevention of genocide and focus scarce resources and limited political will. This article is an attempt to develop an interpretation of genocidal intent that supports the application of the obligation to prevent genocide in future situations. Past examples, including the situations in Rwanda and Darfur, demonstrated that the interpretation of genocidal intent has important implications for the application of the obligation to prevent genocide under the Convention. While some of the challenges can be traced back to the drafting history of the Convention, a review of the Travaux Preparatoire reveals very limited cross-references between the discussions on intent and considerations of the obligation to prevent genocide. Since the drafting of the Convention there have been significant developments in the interpretation and application of genocidal intent by national and international courts, and in the development of methodology and institutions for early-warning and early action to respond to situations at risk of genocide. International and national courts would have to acknowledge their role in assisting national and international entities in implementing the obligation to prevent and punish genocide by opting for a ‘prevention-friendly’ interpretation and ensuring punishment as early as possible during unfolding events of genocide through the application of genocidal intent. The interpretation of intent must be opened to subsume relevant precursors of genocide into the definitions of article II and III of the Convention. The interpretation of intent has to evolve over time to link well-established risk factors with the acts of genocide spelled out in the Convention.

Affiliations: 1: Griffith University,


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